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The Shrinking Giant Red Spot of Jupiter 160

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes "Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot — a swirling storm feature larger than Earth — is shrinking. This downsizing, which is changing the shape of the spot from an oval into a circle, has been known about since the 1930s, but now these striking new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture the spot at a smaller size than ever before."
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The Shrinking Giant Red Spot of Jupiter

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  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday May 16, 2014 @05:33AM (#47015857)

    Must be global warming...

    • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Friday May 16, 2014 @05:41AM (#47015875)

      Must be global warming...

      Nah, the Neocon delegation must have reached mount Doom and burned the communist manifesto so the great eye of Sauron will now shrink until it disappears and Jupiter implodes thus purging the threat of environmentalism from the face of the universe forever.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 16, 2014 @06:01AM (#47015925)

      We all know it shrinks when it gets cold.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by KeensMustard (655606)
      You might laugh, but I have heard people use similar astronomical events as proof against the anthropogenic cause of the recent warming. "Ice caps are melting on Mars!" etc. etc.

      We will likely discover soon that the red spot is shrinking because in fact, it's jupiter's face and he is palming it at the the stupidity of the gullible.

      • Yes, because the fact that other planets in the same solar system are experiencing similar warming(if such is indeed the case) has absolutely no value in interpreting why this planet is doing the same. It's not like they all have something in common, such as receiving the bulk of their energy from the same source.
        • Re:Global warming (Score:4, Insightful)

          by KeensMustard (655606) on Friday May 16, 2014 @09:30AM (#47016951)

          Yes, because the fact that other planets in the same solar system are experiencing similar warming(if such is indeed the case) has absolutely no value in interpreting why this planet is doing the same

          Are you saying we can't (and aren't) measuring the output of the sun directly? Why would proxies be a better measure? Detail please.

          • If other planets are observed to be experiencing a similar warming to that being observed here, it seems likely that the warming is caused by something which all of the planers have in common. Whether or not that something can and is being otherwise monitored. If your explanation for earth's warming does not take into account the warming taking place at the same time on other planets(assuming that such warming is occurring), it is likely to be false.
            • If other planets are observed to be experiencing a similar warming to that being observed here...

              There is no reliable evidence that this is even happening. What climate change is happening to other planets in the solar system [skepticalscience.com]?

              • Not relevant to my point. The poster thought the argument was laughable even if the facts were correct.
                • it IS laughable, because

                  (a) there are no such observations

                  (b) The impact of CO2 in the atmosphere has been directly and indirectly observed.

                  For some reason, the anti-science crowd continues to miss the point. to disprove the theory that increased quantities of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere will net positive energy to that system they need to address the radiative properties of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) directly. Otherwise, a warming trend from increased concentrations is

            • If other planets are observed to be experiencing a similar warming to that being observed here, it seems likely that the warming is caused by something which all of the planers have in common.

              And if there are no such observations, we can stop pretending.

              • Again, you have missed the point, but then that is not surprising. The point I made was that if the facts were as those were arguing, they were making a good argument. The original poster did NOT say their facts were wrong, he said the logic of their argument was laughable.
                • Again, you have missed the point, but then that is not surprising.

                  Hardly likely, since I made the point, and thus get to say what the point is.

                  No increase in the Sun's output has been observed. There have been no observed climate changes on other planets coincident with the period of warming on earth. No plausible explanation has been proffered as to how adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has zero effect, contrary to experimental and direct observation.

                  It is thus a stupid argument that implies the people that proffer it are stupid.

                  • And this is why people do not trust the global warming alarmists: they cannot tell the difference between an argument based on bad logic and one which is based on incorrect facts. Such a failure suggests that both their logic and their facts are flawed.
                    • You apparently live in a fantasy world where scientists want or need you to trust them when they state facts underpinned by observation. It would, of course, be better if you were rational and took scientific findings at face value, but if you choose not to, that is entirely your responsibility and you will be held liable for that choice.

                      I use the word 'liable' in the sense that sometime in the future when the consequences of climate change start to hurt inevitably many will be asking who is responsible

                    • What "timely action" would you suggest that we take? All of the actions which I have seen proposed would have a devastating impact on freedom and world economies, but the scientists have told us they would have insignificant impact on the warming which they claim is coming. Of course, the people proposing these actions are generally people who fly all over the earth to tell us that we should not fly so much.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            Because they are not proxies in this case. No one is suggesting that the earth's temperature should be measured by measuring the temperature on another planet. If the temperature is rising on other planets in a similar fashion as the earth (if such is indeed the case), it wouldn't be a way to measure earth's temperature. It would be an extremely strong indication that either your current direct measurment of the sun's energy is broken, you are measuring the wrong energy being expelled by the sun, or ther
            • Warming on other planets (if such is indeed the case) does not answer the question of whether there is AGW on Earth. It would just invalidate the argument that we have ruled out N(atural)GW.

              Yes, it would; but it's not the case. At least not to the extend that denialists claim, or in any way that even hints at a common cause: What climate change is happening to other planets in the solar system [skepticalscience.com]

              • by Belial6 (794905)
                There are two problems with your response. First, the name calling. Second, your link is to a trolling site. Read the post and its responses. They don't argue from a position of fact. They argue using a 'ends justifies the means' format to 'win' their argument.
                • by Reziac (43301) *

                  The third is that their solar irradiance chart is a fair match for observed temperature trends...

            • Because they are not proxies in this case. No one is suggesting that the earth's temperature should be measured by measuring the temperature on another planet.

              They are proxies for measuring the output of the sun, which we already measure directly.

              . If the temperature is rising on other planets in a similar fashion as the earth (if such is indeed the case), it wouldn't be a way to measure earth's temperature. It would be an extremely strong indication that either your current direct measurment of the sun's energy is broken, you are measuring the wrong energy being expelled by the sun, or there is likely another astronomical energy source that is affecting the planets.

              But no such changes have been observed, making this point moot. Secondly, nobody has stated a plausible reason to doubt that pumping millions of tons of CO2 into the troposphere will cause it to warm, as predicted 150 years ago and now observed, directly and indirectly. So if some (curiously unobserved) change in the sun's output or some oogie boogie radiation from deep space were causing the other planets to warm, we wo

        • by dryeo (100693)

          Except it was always some planets were getting warmer with the largest number being 4 which is half the planets. The real test of if its solar induced would be the planets (and nearby moon) without an atmosphere and all those were not getting warmer.

          • But that is irrelevant to the point made by the poster I replied to. He dismissed the idea that warming on other planets might have relevance to warming on earth.
            • No, he didn't. He said that we can track solar activity independently of observing other planets, and therefore that it's better data than looking at other planets. He didn't say they were irrelevant, just that the only obvious relevant factor can be observed directly. He seems to have assumed that solar activity would be the only common factor linking warming and cooling of planets. Offhand, I can't think of another likely candidate. If you can, please let us know.

              • The poster I initially replied to said: "You might laugh, but I have heard people use similar astronomical events as proof against the anthropogenic cause of the recent warming. "Ice caps are melting on Mars!" etc. etc. " He never once mentioned other ways of tracking solar energy. I have seen the arguments he is referencing and they were a bit more sophisticated than "Ice caps are melting on Mars." I do not know if they were true, but the argument was that temperatures were rising on Mars (and other planet
            • by dryeo (100693)

              When its half the planets (Pluto was in the list as it was still considered a planet IIRC) and for 2 of them it was understood what was driving the warming, namely orbital mechanics. Both Pluto and Mars have very elliptical orbits, Pluto had just passed its closest point and was still warming much as the Earth gets the warmest after the longest day and Mars is shifting where in its orbit summer happens. Sort of like the Earth where the southern hemisphere summer happens when the Earth is closest to the Sun.

              • So, you are making the point that the facts the argument was based on were not correct (or were better explained by other explanations). That is a valid response, but it does not make the original argument "laughable". It just makes it wrong.
          • by Belial6 (794905)
            No. A lack of atmosphere would not be a point to prove the sun wasn't causing warming. The sun spews out all sorts of energy besides direct heat. Something as simple as solor wind and our magnetophere could make a differece in warming. I'm not suggesting that it actually does make a difference, but claiming a lack of atmosphere helps in declaring the sun to be unrelated is clearly a critically flawed idea.
            • by dryeo (100693)

              While the solar wind might interact with Earths magnetosphere, it would not act on Mars (the chief planet that was referenced as warming) as there is no magnetosphere.
              Usually the people referencing the planets are getting warmer did claim it was the Sun putting out more energy which would include heat, both directly as infrared and as other radiation. It is true that in the '90's the Sun was more active and some estimates put its affect on global temperature as high as 1/3rd, now we're in the opposite cycle

              • by Belial6 (794905)
                If you notice, I was specifically clear that I was not arguing any specific mechanism or outcome. I was just pointing out a flawed hypothisis. This is one of the reasons so many people are sceptical. Those that are trying to convince us of AGW do not listen to what is being said. They frequently repeat arguements that are non-sequitor to what was stated.
      • by argStyopa (232550)

        You're right, how incomprehensibly silly to point out that increasing temperatures observed on multiple planets in our solar system might suggest that the Earth's warming is primarily due to something other than yuppies driving SUVs.

        I mean surely it's absurd that the SUN has something to do with climate change, right?

        • by dryeo (100693)

          It is silly when most of the planets were not getting warmer.

        • You're right, how incomprehensibly silly to point out that increasing temperatures observed on multiple planets in our solar system might suggest that the Earth's warming is primarily due to something other than yuppies driving SUVs.

          It would be silly to speculate on that, absent being able to provide any such observation to prove it, and absent an explanation as to why increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are NOT causing warming, per the long accepted greenhouse gas theory established 150 years ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by huge (52607)
      No, it's not downsizing, it's just restructuring overlapping functions after all the mergers.
      • Exactly. At some point Jupiter will conclude that the red spot is no longer part of it's core business model and outsource it to some smaller planet where it will cost less to maintain it. I understand Neptune is a very economical alternative.
    • My first thought was: too bad they didn't find out in time to include it in the most recent AAAS report.

  • Monolith! (Score:5, Funny)

    by gigne (990887) on Friday May 16, 2014 @05:46AM (#47015885) Homepage Journal

    all these planets are yours except europa

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday May 16, 2014 @05:52AM (#47015907)

    The average Jovian's carbon footprint is much heavier than a Terran's.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The average Jovian's carbon footprint is much heavier than a Terran's.

      I think it's not so much gravity, but rather the division by zero in your calculations.

  • Hubble Rules! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thephydes (727739) on Friday May 16, 2014 @05:57AM (#47015915)
    Another testament to one of the most amazing "machines" ever created. Hubble is a truly awesome telescope, and the pictures that come from it continue to amaze and astound us.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Another testament to the fact that we are exploring space just fine from our computer chairs. No one actually had to be in space to take those pictures.

      • Re:Hubble Rules! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by S.O.B. (136083) on Friday May 16, 2014 @06:36AM (#47016001)

        I agree that we can learn a lot using telescopes and autonomous/semi-autonomous robots but nothing captures the imagination quite like one of us actually going there.

      • by ferret4 (459105) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:44AM (#47016577)
        5 crews of 7 astronauts have gone into space on repair missions, including the first mission to repair Hubble's faulty lenses that would have rendered it useless. Add to that the 5 astronauts that took Hubble into space in the first place and you have a total of 40 people in space. Some of those 40 may possibly be the same across 6 missions, I'll let you research that yourself.
      • No one actually had to be in space to take those pictures.

        Apart from when Hubble was launched or when it needed repairs.

      • Another testament to the fact that we are exploring space just fine from our computer chairs. No one actually had to be in space to take those pictures.

        Didn't they have to do a space walk to repair or adjust the telescope because it was taking blurry pictures? It seems someone did need to be in space for us to see these pictures!

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Just to put some perspective on this, the Shuttle was designed to launch NRO spy satellites [wikipedia.org]. The entire reason its cargo bay was as large as it was was so it could carry a spy satellite into orbit. Hubble was also designed to fit in this bay, so coincidentally ended up being almost the exact same size as a spy satellite.

      Since the Shuttle began operating, 16 such spy satellites have been launched into orbit (not all aboard the shuttle - some go into polar orbits and are launched from Vandenberg AFB). 1
  • by oodaloop (1229816) on Friday May 16, 2014 @06:21AM (#47015969)

    downsizing

    In my organization, we call it rightsizing. Of course, we didn't call it that while we were expanding.

  • Better question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Friday May 16, 2014 @06:42AM (#47016021)
    What has keep it going all these years?
    • by Guppy06 (410832)
      There's not much to stop it and disrupt the circulation (e.g. mountains).
    • What has keep it going all these years?

      As I understand it (I DON'T study this, but just recall previous articles):

      The Great Red Spot is a big storm. It happens that the dynamics of storms on Jupiter is such that they move east/west at different speeds, and when they collide they combine. So Jupiter usually has a big Borg storm that has been growig by assimilating little storms more than it has been shrinking by "blowing out".

      I have also read that such storms, though very long-lived, have died out even in

      • by PPH (736903)

        There are also some theories that the spot causes and is a result of some chemical changes in the Jovian atmosphere. I believe it is cooler and a 'high pressure' weather phenomena. Some chemical phase changes may occur at some point which discourage energy transfer to/from the spot as well as an effect something akin to surface tension. Where the compounds inside the spot are attracted to ech other more strongly than to those of the rest of the atmosphere.

    • by Waccoon (1186667)

      Fluid simulations have shows that vortexes spinning in the opposite direction of a planet's rotation tend to continue spinning in a stable manner, and will eventually consolidate into a single vortex. Vortexes spinning with the planet's rotation will dissipate.

      I assume something similar explains the hexagonal shape of the storm at the pole of Saturn.

  • Didn't Arthur C. Clarke write about this - like right before the Monolith ignited Jupiter? ;)
  • Rate of shrinkage (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zocalo (252965) on Friday May 16, 2014 @06:57AM (#47016065) Homepage
    For those that don't RTFA it seems like the rate of shrinkage has dramatically accelerated in the last few years - the extent of this being something that probably ought to be included in the summary. It was ~23,500km across when the Voyager probes imaged it in 1979/1980 and is down to ~16,500km in the latest Hubble image, yet the current rate of shrinkage is quoted at almost 1,000km/year since 2012. That makes me think it's behaving like many Terrestial storms and it's going to blow over and dissipate quite quickly, which could mean that it could be gone entirely before the end of the decade. While it was never going to be around indefinitely I'm still somewhat stunned at the notion that I'm probably going to outlive something that has always seemed like a permanent fixture and a defining feature of Jupiter akin to Saturn's rings.
    • Interesting. Makes me wonder, what is they age of the feature?

      • Re:Rate of shrinkage (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Noryungi (70322) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:03AM (#47016331) Homepage Journal

        Interesting. Makes me wonder, what is they age of the feature?

        Oldest reports of the Red Spot on Jupiter have been tentatively dated (roughly) to the late 1600s. It was studied by Cassini (the original astronomer, not the satellite of the same name). It's been studied extensively since the early 1800s. So we are talking about a storm raging on Jupiter that has been going on for 400+ years at least.

        Think about this: that storm -- 3 times to size of the Earth at its biggest -- has been visible from the Earth for 400+ years. With winds hundreds of kilometers an hour running inside.

        And now it's dying, and we may be witnesses to an amzing events in the coming years. Thinking about it gives me chills.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's not clear if the storm seen in the 1600s is the same as the one we're seeing now. It's only been continuously watched since 1878.

        • Think about this: that storm -- 3 times to size of the Earth at its biggest -- has been visible from the Earth for 400+ years.

          Ah, but Jupiter rotates. How do you know it's the same spot each time?

          Maybe Jupiter is blushing because it knows we've been looking at its bum.

          • Even if it didn't rotate, how do you know it's still the same spot?

            Its atoms could be renewing themselves every X planck time units.

        • by gstoddart (321705) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:59AM (#47016695) Homepage

          So we are talking about a storm raging on Jupiter that has been going on for 400+ years at least.

          And, to put that into perspective, Jupiter is likely, what, several billion years old?

          To expect that this has been a permanent feature of Jupiter is thinking on human timescales.

          On astronomical timescales, this may well be a transient blip.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            And, to put that into perspective, Jupiter is likely, what, several billion years old?

            It's (to a close approximation) the same age as the Earth. And the most recent estimate for that which I've committed to memory is a rather convenient number : 4567 million years. No, seriously.

            Since assembly of the Earth (and it's probable giant impact and the formation of the Moon from the impact debris) is modelled to have taken several millions of years, that numerical coincidence is pretty likely to have been within

    • Maybe it just got out of the pool...

    • by johnsie (1158363)
      I never read the aticle... I only come for the funny comments, and sometimes someone posts an interesting link. Not much on this article. Some uranus jokes and people talking about how crap space travel has become. Sending radio controlled cars to planets instead of people.How many mars missions to look for water? Hopefully the next generation will be more interested in cool space stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Jupiter finally found out about Clearasil!

  • This have anything to do with that monolith the Chinese rover found on the moon? (...just thought I'd start that roomer.)
  • If we go there we could find the cure for cancer... or, well, at least melanoma
  • Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot — a swirling storm feature larger than Earth — is shrinking. This downsizing...

    Or "shrinking" as it is usually known...

    C'mon. I know "downsizing" has a specific and vaguely useful meaning but it is generally a pretty dumb-sounding word.

    Its use here rankles me almost to a similar degree as hearing a comedian being introduced as a "funnyman."

  • by B33rNinj4 (666756) on Friday May 16, 2014 @08:46AM (#47016591) Homepage Journal
    Pluto isn't a planet, and now this? It's a sad day indeed.
  • Wow, must people anthro climate change there, too!!!
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      no, it's just weather, which on gas giant large storms lasting decades to centuries are quite normal

  • That should free the rest of us up, to live out the next 20 years without them destroying our lives and economies.
  • Looking at that photo linked in the article, I just realized that there are many other large storms visible on Jupiter. There are three large off-white ones just above the red one that are comparable in size. They do not stand out as much because they lack the striking red color and instead blend into the surrounding clouds. There is a little orange one at bottom left. I wonder if those other storms have persisted as long as the big red eye?

  • This time make sure his trusty cyberpal has a kill switch.

  • It's full of stars.
  • by slapout (93640)

    It started dieting and working out and lost a few pounds.

  • There goes Jup's tourism industry.

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